Alright, so imagine that there was a plane on a treadmill…
Finally, the verdict. And I was (partially right).
I always thought that a plane held in the same absolute position would not take off, as there’s obviously not airflow over the wings. I was unsure what the myth was… was the treadmill ever increasing to match the plane’s speed, or was it constant. Moreover, can a treadmill actually hold a powered up plane still at any speed?
Well, when I first discussed this problem in Physics about a year ago, with Kieran, I came to the conclusion that it would take off, on the version of the myth that I’d heard. My reasoning, why, was exactly the same as the Mythbusters’ conclusion – planes put power through their propellers, not through their wheels like a car. This I thought of almost straight away, and I’m quite proud of. With our theory, this means that the wheels are free wheeling – for all we care, they could be travelling infinitely fast back the way, however they are not connected to the plane to move it in the same way that a car’s powered wheels are.
However, recently I began to falter in my beliefs, mostly due to peer disbeliefs. I never gave up on my theory, so I don’t know how this occurred. I thought, if the treadmill was going fast enough, perhaps the friction between the wheels and the treadmill will help hold it back. However, as it turn out, the speed of the treadmill matched the full throttle take off speed of the plane – totally fair. And it still took off.
I was impressed and rather chuffed.